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Ethereum researcher and cryptocurrency promoter blamed for advising North Korea to evade sanctions

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A leading US cryptocurrency promoter and former hacker has pleaded guilty to advising North Korea to use virtual money to evade international control, a New York court said on Monday.

According to the Southern District Court of New York, Singapore-based Virgil Griffith launched projects in 2018 to provide services to individuals in North Korea by developing and financing crypto structures, including cryptocurrency mining.

A decision will be announced in January 2022.

The court noted that Griffith, who is facing a 20-year prison sentence, worked with others to provide crypto services and help North Korea evade sanctions.

He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in November 2019.

Griffith, 38, attended a conference on blockchain and virtual currencies in Pyongyang in April of that year, where he talked about using both technologies “to evade sanctions”, the US Justice Department said.

Doing so violated a US Treasury ban on “the export of any goods, services or technology” to North Korea in response to the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Using the North’s official name, the Justice Department said, following the conference, Griffith “began to draw up plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between the DPRK and South Korea, despite learning that such Assisting with the exchange would be a breach of sanctions.”

The department said it also announced plans to renounce his US citizenship, with the aim of “buying” citizenship in another country.

Called a “cult hacker” 11 years ago in a New York Times profile, Griffith holds a doctorate in theoretical neuroscience from the California Institute of Technology.

Four years ago he joined Ethereum, a Singapore-based company developing a secure blockchain-based global platform for trade and finance use, and promoting its own cryptocurrency of the same name. Ether price in India is Rs. 2.38 lakh till 11 am on 30th September.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things Orbital with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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